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Why we get scared (and why we like it)

A shark moves into frame against a black background.
Laura College
A shark moves into frame against a black background.

Jack Rodolico knows exactly what scares him. Sharks.

But here’s what he doesn’t get: if he’s so freaked out, why can’t he stop incessantly watching online videos of bloody shark attacks?

Why would he deliberately seek out the very thing that spooks him?

To figure it out, Jack enlists the help of other scaredy-cats: our listeners, who shared their fears about nature with us. Together, Jack and the gang consider the spectrum of fear, from phobia to terror, and what it might mean when we don’t look away.

Featuring Lauren Passell, Arash Javanbakht, Nile Carrethers, and Sushmitha Madaboosi.

The hand of Sushmitha Madaboosi holds a huge but clearly fake "augmented reality" spider. Her gold rings and white painted nails are visible against the grey background.
Arash Javanabakht
Sushmitha Madaboosi is afraid of spiders. But during a session of augmented reality exposure therapy, she was able to hold a huge but clearly fake "augmented reality" tarantula-like spider (pictured)... and even a real, living tarantula.


The ubiquity of smartphones means plenty ofhair-raising amateurvideos ofsharkattacks to get you started on your doomscrolling (warning: a couple of these are bloody).

If this image of an octopus freaks you out, you might share Lauren’s “fear of holes,” or trypophobia.

Learn more about augmented reality technology and other projects at Arash Javanbakht’s clinic.

Lauren Passell’s Podcast the Newsletter.

Related: why people love horror movies.

Outside/In is a podcast! Subscribe on the platform of your choice.

Before joining NHPR in August 2014, Jack was a freelance writer and radio reporter. His work aired on NPR, BBC, Marketplace and 99% Invisible, and he wrote for the Christian Science Monitor and Northern Woodlands.
Outside/In is a show where curiosity and the natural world collide. Click here for podcast episodes and more.
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